BWW Review: ALLAN STEWART'S BIG BIG VARIETY SHOW, King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Following on from successful runs in 2014 and 2015, Allan Stewart's Big Big Variety Show returns after a year's absence with a winning formula of clever wit, hit music and topical impressions.
It is comparatively rare these days to find a true variety show staged in a large theatre, and even rarer perhaps to find one which works, but this show enthralled the audience from start to finish.
Allan Stewart, fittingly, is the shiniest star of the evening, and his regular appearances during gain the most laughs. His material is clever - very clever. There are the topical gags (a wrong envelope is opened when announcing the next act), the clever impressions (such as Theresa May giving a full rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody", and an ageing Tina Turner blasting out not "Simply the best" but "Must wear a vest"), and the downright bizarre (an inspired amalgamation of Michael Jackson and George Formby).
Stewart is joined by regular panto accomplice Grant Stott for two hugely entertaining sketches. The first is an enactment of King's Theatre Pantomime 2037, where Stewart and Stott, 20 years older, arrive on stage in mobility scooters, still uttering the same lines and catchphrases (though noticeably slightly more 'adult' than in their actual pantomimes).
Of course, no one knows the intricacies of Edinburgh panto better than Stewart, and the sketch is full of clever in-jokes - for example, whilst introducing the audience sing-a-long of "Rockin' All Over The World" (the song which annually closed the pantomime up until a few years ago), Stewart says "We'll sing this for the first time for 25 years".
The second sketch sees the return of the McRobert Brothers - Big Boaby and Wee Boaby. Unfortunately, with Andy Gray (the third of the pantomime trio) otherwise engaged for the week, the spoof Highland folk trio from Effin are a Boaby short - but never fear, cousin Boabina is enlisted to join in for the evening. And Boabina looks remarkably like veteran Scottish comedian Elaine C Smith.
Of course, Stott and Smith have their own solo spots too, and history is being made here, as apparently this show is the first time that Stewart and Smith have shared a stage. Scottish Seventies rock band Pilot perform a very popular quartet of songs, including "Magic" and 1975 chart-topping hit "January", and in doing so prove that they still have great voices.
Britain's Got Talent 2011 favourite Edward Reid treats us to the Neil Diamond/Barbra Streisand duet "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" - but this version is a solo in which he manages to sing both parts - and Andy Pickering's eight-piece house band provide the necessary backing for the evening.
Something for everyone, then, in this excellent 150 minutes of entertainment. As if all this wasn't enough, the first night audience were treated to a surprise finale appearance by Susan Boyle (this time, not one of Stewart's impersonations), who ensured a standing ovation with her rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream".
Allan Stewart's Big Big Variety Show runs at Edinburgh's King's Theatre until 4 March.
Picture credit: Phil Wilkinson